The largest gathering of young Catholics worldwide

According to the Census of 2021, 80% of Portuguese older than 15 years adhere to the Roman Catholic faith.
World Youth Day (WYD) is a major, religious encounter between young Catholics from all over the world and the Pope taking place for the first time this year in Portugal.

This biggest event ever is to be held from 1-6 August in Lisbon and the neighboring municipality of Loures. Around 1.5 million youngsters from 180 countries are expected. To date, more than 10,000 volunteers have been registered but 20 to 30 thousand are expected. During the event, police officers will see their holidays suspended.

The WYD occurs every two or three years in a city chosen by the Pope, lasts about a week, and is both a pilgrimage and a youth festival. The event is open to everyone between 14 and 30 years. The first WYD) took place in Buenos Aires (1987) and the last in Panama (2019).

The main ceremonies take place in the Tagus Park, north of Parque das Nações, along the Tagus river. Pope Francis will arrive on the 3rd and close the event on the 6th of August with the ‘missa do envio’ (farewell mass).

There will be an altar stage constructed at the Tagus costing about 3 million euros (after the event to be used for other shows and spectacles).
The four-meter high stage will have a capacity for 1250 people (including bishops, concelebrants, choir and orchestra, sign language interpreters, and technical staff) and covers an area of 3250 square meters.

Costs are estimated at 160 million euros. Lisbon City Council is willing to invest up to 35 million (including 21,5 million for the requalification of the Tagus Park), the Government 36,5 million, and Loures up to 10 million euros. The president of the Lisbon WYD Foundation and auxiliary bishop of Lisbon Américo Aguiar declared that the Church’s investment will be at least 80 million (30 million for feeding the participants) as the Church will be responsible for the costs of everything related to the reception of pilgrims. 

The economic return on the studies carried out in relation to Madrids WYD (2011) represented an economic benefit of around 350 million euros. ‘I assume that Portugal will have an economic return of the same magnitude’, declared José Sá Fernandes, the government coordinator of the event.

Given the expected influx of participants to the week-long Catholic jamboree prices for accommodation are already skyrocketing. Hotels in Lisbon are cited as charging over 4000 euros a week, apartments in Moscavide, Loures cost 5000 a week, an apartment in Fátima 8000 a week, and a three-bedroom apartment in the nearby Parque da Nações likely to cost 2500 euros a day!

The director of the National Department of Youth, father Filipe Diniz, believes the recent report on child sexual abuse by members of the clergy will not affect the event. In fact, he went so far as to suggest that participation in WYD could ‘increase religious vocation’.

Two tons of wheat produced in the Alentejo will be transformed by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery in Lisbon into millions of hosts for the Eucharistic celebrations.

Most surprising, however, is that six months from the opening hardly any construction work has begun on site.

Enjoy the week            Aproveita a semana               (pic Público/Sapo)

Lisbon is more expensive than Barcelona, Madrid, or Milan

Portugal’s property market is booming but the damage inflicted on the social fabric of the big cities is profound. Unaffordable rents and purchase prices are hitting not just those on subsistence prices and pensions, but ordinary workers and their families.

The actual situation can be traced to the 2008 debt crisis after which the country was required to deregulate in order to entice foreign investment. In 2012 the former conservative government of Passos Coelho liberalized the real estate sector. Within five years rents in Lisbon skyrocketed.

That same year the golden visa program was ushered in offering residency permits in exchange for real estate acquisitions worth 500,000 euros or more.
A separate ‘non-habitual residency scheme’ was also brought in, which gave foreign citizens, who spent half a year in the country, a 10-year tax break on income earned elsewhere. As interest from abroad began to grow, demand outstripped supply pushing house prices up and people with average income out.

Besides the golden visa program and the non-habitual residency scheme, the expansive growth of Airbnb-style short-term rentals (Alojamento Local) in the urban centers further reduced the housing supply.

Portugal is among the EU countries where housing prices almost doubled in the last decade. Between 2010 and 2022 sales prices went up by 80% while rents rose by 28%. In the eurozone increases during this period were respectively 50% and 18%. Even last year the prices of residential property in the country rose 19% , the biggest increase in 30 years.

Buying or renting a house in Lisbon these days is becoming even more expensive than in some of the main European cities. Last year the average price per square meter of houses for sale in the capital surpassed that of Madrid, Barcelona, and Milan and only in Paris and Milan is renting a house more expensive than in Lisbon.

Although the Socialist Government of António Costa recently approved a National Housing Program allocating nearly 3 billion euros – thanks to EU funding from Brussels – to reinforce the public housing stock until 2026, associations that fight for the right to housing consider that the program is not enough to solve the problem.

‘Moreover, we identified some gaps in the bill, from benefits for certain groups (rich foreigners who can buy at prices that Portuguese families cannot afford) to the exclusion of migrants and refugees’, declares Maria João Costa, on behalf of housing rights organization Habita.

For this year a slowdown in the rise of house prices is expected. According to Moody’s house prices may fall by up to 3% whereas S&P Global Ratings predicts that Portugal will be one of the European countries that will feel the most intensive fall in house prices (-4.4%) this year.

Enjoy the week                     Aproveite a semana            (pic Público/Sapo)